Friday, 30 November 2012

Who are the Amish? part 1

Reformation in Europe

So far, we have mentioned some of the distinctives of the Amish and that they are descendants of the Anabaptists from the Reformation in Europe. But where did they come from and what are their beliefs? How have those beliefs determined the people they are today? And what is more, should more Christians be like them?

The history of the Amish hinges around several key figures, the first of whom is

Martin Luther
At the start of the sixteeth century, almost everyone in Europe was part of the Roman Catholic church. Christianity was the state religion in almost all European countries and the Roman Catholics were the dominant  church. The Reformation was a reaction to what were seen as excesses and errors in the Roman Catholic teachings and expression of the Christian faith. It is said to have started on October 31st 1517, when a monk, named Martin Luther, nailed a document known as the ‘Ninety-Five Theses’ to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany.
Luther was born in 1483 and was destined to be a lawyer, by decree of his father. However, he was more interested in philosophy and theology and so gave up his studies in law in favour of theology, much to his father’s displeasure. His tutors taught him to question and apply reason to everything. He could not however be persuaded to question God; he believed that God could only be known through revelation and began to study books about the Scriptures.
In 1505, Luther was struck by lightning while out riding one day. He prayed to St Anna and vowed that if his life were spared, he would become a monk. Fifteen days later, he entered the friary of the Augustine monks at Erfurt. His father believed this to be a waste of Luther's education and talents. He devoted himself to what he believed to be his calling, yet he was often in despair, having a keen sense of his own sinfulness and unworthiness in the sight of God. He struggled to understand how anyone could be righteous in God’s sight. He was terrified of God’s wrath and justice, but knew nothing of His love and grace.
Sometime between 1512 and 1516, Luther at last come to an understanding of the Scriptures and was converted. He had been given a Bible by the Vicar-General, Staupitz, and was encouraged to study it carefully. But instead of finding peace, it only served to show him how sinful he was. One day, when he was preparing lectures on Romans and the Paslms, he came to the realisation that men are saved through faith and not through any effort of their own.
He was on the faculty of the University of Wittenberg, lecturing and preaching daily. Through the preparation of his messages on Romans and Psalms, the light dawned on Luther that men are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, apart from any human efforts or works. Reflecting on his time reading and praying, he said,
I greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, “The justice of God”… Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith
"I laboured diligently and anxiously as to how to understand Paul's words in Romans 1:17 where he says, ‘The righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel.' I saw the difference, that law is one thing and gospel another. I broke through, and as I had formerly hated the expression ‘the righteousness of God,' I now began to regard it as my dearest and most comforting word, so that this expression of Paul's became to me in very truth a gate to paradise."  []
In 1516, John Tetzel, a papal commissioner for indulgences travelled to Germany to sell indulgences. What are indulgences? The church of the time taught that faith alone was not sufficient for salvation; to be forgiven, one also had to do good works and works of charity. However, the benefits of such good works and charity could be bought by donating money to the church. In return, the church absolved the person of wrong doing. The phrase of the day ran ‘As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs’. Those whose loved ones had died could buy their absolution and gain them entry into heaven, thus shortening the time of punishment in purgatory.
The following year, Luther protested the sale of indulgences. He denied that indulgences were effective or that salvation could be bought. He wrote a treatise called the ‘Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences’. This document became known as the Ninety-Five Theses. In them, Luther called into question several of the corrupt practices of the church and challenged the church leaders and even the Pope himself. He maintained that forgiveness of sins could only be granted by God and that those who claimed that indulgences could absolve a person were in error.
On October 31st 1517, Luther reputedly nailed this document to the door of the church in Wittenberg. In January the following year, Luther translated his Theses from Latin into German. It was printed and distributed far and wide. Within a few weeks, it had spread throughout Germany; within two months, it had spread throughout Europe. Thus began the Reformation in Europe.

To be continued...

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Women in Amish Society

The way of life of the Amish is deeply rooted in the Anabaptist tradition, which, in turn, stands firmly on the Word of God. Yesterday, I posted a guest article that summarises Anabaptist thought on the matter; today, I am going to talk about women in Amish society.

Amish families are generally run on ‘traditional’ lines, the woman stays at home to look after the children and the home, while the man is the ‘bread winner’. Divorce is unheard of; marriage is for life; remarriage only takes place after a husband or wife has died. The husband is the head of the home and he makes the final decisions. The church is likewise led by the men.
If that was all there was to it, then outsiders might be forgiven for thinking the Amish live a strict, regimented life that is little but drudgery for the wife. But that is not all there is to it. Women are not treated a servants or slaves; they are allowed to speak their minds and they do far more than ‘just’ keeping house. She finds fulfilment and security in the way of life handed down through the ages and based in Biblical teaching. While the husband has the final say, he does listen to the views and concerns of his wife and takes these into consideration when he makes his decision. In practice, important decisions about the family are made jointly.
Amish men and women usually assume traditional and well-defined gender roles. Husbands carry the primary responsibility for the financial well-being of the family. Wives typically devote themselves to housekeeping and motherhood. As in most families, gender roles in Amish marriages vary by personality; there are shades of dominance from husband to wife across a wide spectrum with many variations. In non-farm families, typically the husband is the primary breadwinner, but in cases where a wife owns a business, she may provide most of the family income. When husbands work at home, there is often considerable cross-sharing of roles—women assisting in the barn or shop, and men in the garden or around the house.”

“Amish women share in household decision making and child discipline, even as they affirm the man’s role as the religious head of the home. Although the man serves as the spiritual head of the home, mothers are very active in nurturing the spiritual life of children.”

The same is true of decisions in the church. Women are allowed to recommend men to be leaders of the church and take full part in any voting:
“Likewise, within the church, the role of the woman is important and respected but limited. For instance, women participate in nominating the ministers, deacons, and bishops as well as voting on other community affairs. However, they are not given any leadership roles themselves other than as Sunday school teachers, song leaders, worship leaders, and church elders.”

The woman sees her role as homemaker as being of the utmost importance and runs her home efficiently, in line with Proverbs 31. She looks after any children, does the cooking, sews the clothes (all Amish outer clothing is homemade), does the shopping, plants a garden to help feed the (usually large) family, cleans the house, and she might start a business of her own, such as baking, rug making, or quilting.

“Amish women are esteemed in Amish society for the contribution they make to home and community. They are mothers, managers of the household, and play an important role in maintaining communal ties. As the home is considered in some ways the centre of Amish life, her role in maintaining it is highly important.”
She will assist her husband with the farm chores and might have some animals to tend herself, such as chickens. But even though the roles are clearly differentiated, a husband will help with child rearing, cook meals when necessary, and help clean the house. Any money she earns is her own, unless she needs to supplement the family income (something that is becoming increasingly necessary in today’s economic downturn).
Modern women and those who study patriarchal societies consider that Amish women are oppressed and down trodden and therefore need ‘rescuing’. Amish women on the other hand feel mostly fulfilled and do not see them as oppressed at all.
“However, the perception of the Amish woman as necessarily oppressed is one which ignores the reality of her position, as well as Amish values.”
They relish their way of life, even though it is hard work, and believe they are acting in God’s will. In response, the Amish find today’s women foolish, striving to be in the place of men. Amish women do not need ‘liberating’; they find themselves liberated enough within the boundaries of their society. She has a respected role and she as well as the rest of Amish society considers that her work is important. Tasks such as washing, mending and cooking are not seen as menial and drudgery; they are vital for the proper functioning of society. Where would they all be if no-one looked after the home or the children? They see modern society as failing in this regard and speak of the state of today’s youth as evidence that something is wrong. There is very little teenage rebellion in Amish society, while it is much more prevalent in the wider population.

See also:

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Guest post: The Woman's Role in the Plan of God

Taken from:

God has a beautiful plan for womanhood that will bring order and fulfillment if it is followed in obedience. God's plan is that one man and one woman, of equal standing before Him but of different roles, should be bonded together as one. In His wisdom and grace He specifically created each for his or her role.

At creation, God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and from him God took a rib and made a woman (Genesis 2:2 1). She was a direct gift from the hand of God, made from man and for man (1 Corinthians 11:9). "Male and female created he them", (Genesis 1:27) each different but made to complete and complement each other. Although the woman is considered the "weaker vessel" (1 Peter 3:7), this does not make her inferior. She was made with a purpose in life that only she could fill.

To woman has been given one of the greatest privileges in the world, that of molding and nurturing a living soul.

Her influence, especially in the realm of motherhood, affects her children's eternal destination. Even though Eve brought condemnation upon the world with her act of disobedience, God considered women worthy of a part in the plan of redemption (Genesis 3:15). "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman." (Galatians 4:4). He entrusted to her the bearing of and the caring for his own dear Son. The woman's role is not insignificant!

A distinction between the sexes is taught throughout the Bible. Paul teaches if a man has long hair, it is a shame unto him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her (1 Corinthians 11:14,15). "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God" (Deuteronomy 22:5). Their roles are not to be interchangeable.

In the Garden of Eden, God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone," and He made a help meet for him-a companion, someone to satisfy his needs (Genesis 2:18).

Proverbs 31:10-31 tells in detail what kind of helpmeet the woman is to be. The supportive role of the wife to the husband is very evident in this description of the ideal woman. She "will do him good and not evil." Because of her honesty, modesty and chastity, "her husband doth safely trust in her." By her efficiency and diligence she would look well to her household. The basis for her virtue is found in verse 30: "a woman that feareth the Lord." This is a reverential fear that gives meaning and purpose to her life. Only as the Lord lives in her heart can she be the woman she was meant to be.

To become a child of God she needs to repent, confess her sins and accept Christ through faith. With Christ she will be able to live a self-denied life. The Holy Spirit will give strength, courage, and direction to fulfill her duties. He will grace her life with humility, modesty, and with that inner "ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price" (1 Peter 3:3,4). Proper, modest dress adds to the hidden charm of a woman. She should never draw attention to her body by being overdressed or underdressed.

To avoid confusion and establish order, someone needs to be the head and God has ordained that this should be the man (1 Corinthians 11:3). Marriage is to be a harmonious relationship similar to that of Christ and the Church. Christ is subject to God, man is subject to Christ, and woman is subject to man. Why would any woman rebel at her position in the framework of authority when even Christ, the Son, is subject to the Father? As the wife reverences her husband, she is obedient to the scripture (Ephesians 5:33), and her husband is then able to bear the responsibility that God has laid on his shoulders.

The liberation movement has challenged God's blueprint for womanhood. Women are clamoring for freedom and fulfillment by asking for total equality. This puts them into a power struggle- into a competitive role instead of a complementary partnership. Their quest for freedom only leads them into bondage. Nevertheless, the selfishness and ungodliness of many men is without excuse. In this context some of women's frustrations can be understood. Ironically, the very thing that many women are rejecting is God's way of establishing the woman in a life that fully satisfies.

If a women moves aggressively into the man's world and there seeks independence and equality, she loses her femininity, that reserved, modest sweetness that men respect and God approves.

Fulfillment comes as she cultivates those gifts for which she was created. A woman's submission to her husband liberates her from a multitude of frustrating problems, and her submission to God's order frees her from guilt. Submission is a blessing, not a curse!

The pattern of men taking the leadership and women following will bring a blessing to single women as well as married women, to daughters as well as wives.

As an outward sign of this submission and her submission to Christ, the Christian woman is commanded to have her head covered for praying and prophesying* (1 Corinthians 11:3-5). Man is subject to Christ and should therefore pray with his head uncovered. Woman is subject to man and should pray with her head covered. Wearing a head covering is a recognition of this divine order.

[* The writers of the article recognizes a sister should wear it "in her times of private devotions and prayer, the sister's head should be covered. A Christian sister would naturally want to wear the head covering whenever she is giving Christian service. In truth, all of a believer's daily life should be lived in service unto Christ. It seems appropriate, then, that the Christian women wear the prayer covering whenever she appears in public. She thus leaves a constant testimony of her submission to God and her husband.]

Love in marriage is to be pure and is given for pleasure as well as for propagation. Woman was uniquely created for the special task of bearing children, a creative fulfillment. God said, "Be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). To purposely choose not to have children is sidestepping God's principle and forfeiting one of the most rewarding experiences in a woman's life.

Woman's first duty is the making and keeping of her home. Many a modern woman chooses a career, hires a baby-sitter, and rushes her children through childhood so that she can be free to pursue her selfish interests. The Bible teaches that women are to be "keepers at home" (Titus 2:5). This means a women is to be there, loving her husband, teaching and enjoying her children, and applying the homemaking arts with joy in her heart. This mother is the heartbeat of the home. She helps lay the foundation of moral standards there. The warmth of her spirit quietly establishes security in the lives of little children-confidence, that in spite of their problems and fears, all will be right. Why would any woman trade this noble place for some dollars earned or for some coveted position? This Bible way is not just being old-fashioned; it is God's order. The women who wholeheartedly accept God's plan will be blessed.

In certain instances, a woman's role extends beyond her home. Examples are given in both the Old and New Testaments of godly women who had responsibilities in God's kingdom. Also today there is a place for the Christian woman to serve within the Church. As she exercises her inborn attributes of love, gentleness, and compassion, she is a living example of that which becomes godliness. Older women are exhorted to teach the young women, "that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Titus 2:4,5). Single Christian women, who do not have the cares of a home and a family, are able to fill a special place (1 Corinthians 7:34).

There are definite guidelines for women's behavior in the Church. They are not to usurp authority over men. Paul instructs, "Let your women keep silence in the churches" (1 Corinthians 14:34,35; 1 Timothy 2:11-15). The order that God has planned for women excludes them from preaching. Faithful women find places for active participation in Christian service where they can humbly and consistently fellowship with other Christians.

May each woman fill her role with the grace of God in her heart, live in submissive obedience to His will, and humbly give of herself in the daily practices of life. As each person fills his respective place in God's plan, there is beautiful harmony that emerges in the heart, the home, and the church.

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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Woman as God Intended, part 2

How were women treated in the New testament?

Jesus and Women

Jesus’ attitude to women was probably unique in His day. He talked with the outcasts of society, telling them the good news of the Kingdom of God; he ministered to women and was ministered to by women.
Mary Magdalene was a disciple of Jesus. The mere fact that he allowed women to be His disciples indicates that He valued women and did not treat them as second class citizens. She was the first person Jesus revealed Himself to after His resurrection, thus she was singled out for great honour. If Jesus thought little of women, He could easily have visited the disciples without the intervention of Mary, as He did when He appeared to them in the locked room.
The religious people of the day brought to Jesus a woman they had caught in the act of adultery. They asked Him to be her judge and jury to condemn her; instead He told them ‘let he who is without sin throw the first stone’.  One by one, her accusers left the scene, convicted of his own sinfulness. Eventually Jesus looked up and saw no-one there but the woman, and said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no-one condemned you? She said, No-one, Lord. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’. Far from looking down on the woman, He forgave her sin and restored her dignity.
Jesus was invited to dinner at the home of Simon the Pharisee. Simon failed to follow the usual custom of the day by arranging for someone to wash Jesus’ feet when He entered the house. This was a slight to Jesus and would have been seen as insulting. During the meal, a woman came into the house, wept so her tears fell on Jesus’ feet, wiped them away with her hair, and then poured an expensive jar of perfume on His feet. This woman was Mary from Bethany. She was known as a ‘sinner’ and Simon was amazed that Jesus let such a woman anywhere near Him: ‘If he were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner’ (Luke 7v39). Judas also criticised her for ‘wasting’ the perfume. Jesus, on the other hand, defended her and her actions and did not condemn her. While it was the practice of the religious leaders to keep away from ‘sinful women’, Jesus treated her with respect and dignity.
Mary of Bethany was sister to Martha and Lazarus. Frequently we read of Jesus going to stay at their home, where these two women fed Him and gave Him a bed for the night. Again, Jesus treated them with respect, despite Mary being a woman of ill repute. That is not to say He ignored or overlooked her sin; but He did not treat her the way the religion of the day treated her. Instead He exhibited God’s love towards her.
One final example of the way in which Jesus treated women with respect was when He spoke to the woman at the well in John 4. The woman was a Samaritan; the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans and would walk past on the other side of the road, rather than be close to one. She was also a ‘sinful’ woman. The mere fact of her being out by herself fetching water in the heat of the day is an indication that she was ostracised by the rest of her society. Even the disciples ‘marvelled that He talked with a woman’ (John 4v27). The ‘rules’ of the day meant a man did not speak to a woman and certainly not a woman of ill-repute! Jesus was different. And as His followers, we are also to be different. We are to treat people with respect, courtesy and dignity; we are not to look down on anyone just because of their status, or their wealth/poverty, or condemn them for their sins and failings. After all, all Christ’s true followers are sinners saved by undeserved grace.

Paul and Women
Many think Paul was anti-women, because he upheld God’s order of things in denying women roles of leadership in the church. I do not believe this is true at all.
When writing the letter to the Romans, Paul singled out Phoebe as someone who was exemplary as a servant in the church. Whether or not she was officially a deacon, I have discussed elsewhere ( The fact however remains, that Paul did not ignore her services to the church, or make light of them – he commended her in front of the whole congregation and to all those down the centuries since that time to the present day. Phoebe stands out as a shining example and we would not know that if Paul hadn’t mentioned her.
When Paul went to Philippi, he met the women down by the riverside, where they met for prayer. Again, he did not ignore them, but sought them out. It appears there was no synagogue in Philippi, but the women faithfully met for prayer on the Sabbath day. After he explained the gospel to them, Lydia it seems was converted. Not only was she baptised, along with other members of her household, but she extended hospitality to Paul, Silas and Timothy. After that had been released from prison, they returned to Lydia’s home and met there with the new converts. It might be that the new church had gathered there for prayer for the safe return of Paul and his companions, or maybe the church was now meeting in her house (she was a woman of some substance and quite possibly had a large home). But whatever the reason, Paul met the new disciples before moving on to another place. Lydia was instrumental in forming the church at Philippi and she is the only disciple/convert mentioned by name in that place.
Priscilla is named several times in the Bible, in Acts chapter 18 (in 3 places, verses 2, 18 and 26) and three times in the letters of Paul (Romans 16v3; 1 Corinthians 16v19; 2 Timothy 16v19). Never is she mentioned without her husband. Clearly Paul had a great regard for this married couple; he calls them ‘faithful’ and ‘fellow workers’ in Romans 16, explaining that they had risked their lives for him; and he mentions that the church was meeting in their house, in 1 Corinthians 16. By the time Paul wrote to Timothy, Aquila and Priscilla had clearly moved from Corinth to Ephesus (Timothy was the elder of the congregation at Ephesus). Paul held them in great esteem and respected them for the work they did for the Lord, both with him and on their own. We see from Acts 18v26 that they knew the gospel and that they shared that gospel with others: ‘A certain Jew named Apollos...knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue [clearly he had not yet heard that Jesus had come, died and been raised from the dead]. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately’ (Acts 18v24-26). Despite persecution, they were preaching the word wherever they went. They had already been sent away from Rome, so had lost their home, but that did not deter them. Paul shows nothing but respect for these two workers for the Lord, who had given him hospitality and shared with him in the work of the Lord.

New Testament Teaching on the Role of Women
Because most of the teaching about women and their role in the church comes to us through Paul’s letters, some have said that Paul hated women. Having seen the way in which Paul treated the various women he encountered on his journeys, it would be inconsistent to suggest he hated women and wrote his letters in order to keep them subservient. On the contrary, I believe he wrote what he did because he wanted to protect women and to ensure they were operating within God’s will in the churches.
1 Corinthians 14v33-40: Paul starts by telling his readers that God is not the author of confusion, but of peace and that this is the way of it in all the churches. It seems the Corinthian church, revelling in their new-found freedoms, were overstepping the mark and going too far. Bearing in mind God’s sense of orderliness and peace, Paul goes on to instruct the Corinthian church that the women in the church ought to be silent and submissive (as opposed to brash and loud); if they need to know something, then they should ask their husbands at home. Paul appeals to the Law (ie the first five books of the Bible, the books of Moses) as evidence to support what he is saying. Now it appears the custom was that after the sermon, the men would ask each other questions and a discussion would ensue. In Corinth, the women were taking part in this discussion and so it has been said that Paul was simply limiting their involvement in this discussion. As we will see later, this is only half of what Paul is meaning (cf 1 Timothy 2). Paul concludes by saying that it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church. He then issues a challenge to the Corinthian church: ‘did the word of God come originally through you? Or was it only you that it reached?’ (v.36, referring to the Corinthians being the only church to allow women to speak in the assembly) and then, ‘the things which I write are the commandments of the Lord’ (v.37), concluding with ‘let all things be done decently and in order’ (v.40). There are matters which can be determined by the local church and there are matters which cannot; in the interests of decency and good order, God has decreed that women do not participate in teaching others in the assembly.
Ephesians 5v22-24 speaks to wives in particular. They are to be submissive to their own husbands, ‘as unto the Lord’ (v.23); in the same way as they submit to God, they need to submit to their own husbands. Paul gives the reason for this: man (the husband) is head of woman (the wife) just as Christ is head of the church. Has Christ ceased to be head of the church? Well in some circles we might be forgiven for thinking that He no longer holds any sway, because the churches do as they please without reference to the Word of God at all. But Christ is still head of the church, therefore women are still to be subject to their husbands. Does this mean men can treat their wives badly and order them about? In case any of his readers might have thought that, Paul goes on to explain that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. Far from treating their wives as chattels, men were to love their wives in a self sacrificing way. Today people have forgotten this truth; men and women treat each other badly, but that is no reason to reject the Bible, just because some do not follow what it says. God has a high view of women; it is people who have failed to listen and put into practice what God has decreed. Just because some do not obey Christ as head of the church does not negate His headship. It is still His church and we are not free to do with it as we please.
1 Timothy 2v9-15 speaks of God’s plan for women and gives us the reason for it. Paul says women should adorn themselves modestly, not with costly clothing, or jewellery, or fancy hairdos. This would include modest clothing, covered heads (1 Corinthians 11) and not extravagant, for we are not to use our money for ourselves but for the good of others (sell what you have and give to the poor). Instead, women should be adorned with ‘good works’; it is these and not the way we dress which should call attention to ourselves. In Acts 9 we read of a woman who had died. Her name was Tabitha and she lived at Joppa. The local people were upset that she had died and when they heard that Peter had come to a nearby town, they sought him out, begging him to do something to help bring her back, because she was well known and well loved for ‘the good works and charitable deeds which she did’ (v.36). To prove the point, they showed Peter the tunics and garments she had made while she was with them. Clearly she was valued highly – because of her good works and charitable deeds.
Paul in writing to Timothy goes on to give the prohibition so hated by advocates of women bishops today: ‘Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence’ (v. 11-12; note that being silent is mentioned twice in this short extract). From this, women have decided that Paul simply did not like women! But Paul goes on to give the reason for the prohibition: ‘For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression’ (v. 13-14).  Adam being formed first shows that it was always God’s intention that men should have the position of leader. In a marriage for example, you have a committee of two; if there is a disagreement, someone has to have the casting vote. God has decreed that this should be the man/husband. When Eve fell into sin, it was not because she was deceived that caused this prohibition on her, but because she sinned and part of the punishment for her sin was that her husband will rule over her – whether she likes it or not – and women have been rebelling against that ever since, which seems to me to prove the point! Maybe this is what Paul was referring to in 1 Corinthians 14 when he said women are not to speak but to be submissive, ‘as the Law also says’ (v.34).
1 Timothy 5v9 lists the qualifications of an older woman if she is to be accepted into the list of widows by the church. It follows therefore that these qualities are those necessary for a Christian woman before she becomes a widow, as it would be impossible for her to qualify if she had not lived in this fashion. What are these qualities? She must be:
  1. The wife of one man (now deceased or she would not be a widow)
  2. Well reported for good works (like Tabitha)
  3. Having brought up children
  4. Lodged strangers
  5. Washed the feet of the saints (literally, as well as humbly serving others)
  6. Relieved the afflicted (nursed those in poor health, fed those who are hungry, clothed those who are cold – see also Matthew 25v31-46)
  7. Diligently followed every good work
High ideals indeed.
Younger women are to:
  1. Have children
  2. Manage the home
  3. Give no opportunity to the adversary (whether Satan or human adversaries) to speak reproachfully.
Older women are also mentioned in Titus 2v3-5 where another list of qualities of a Godly woman is given:
  1. Reverent in behaviour
  2. Not a slanderer (doesn’t gossip about people behind their back)
  3. Not given to much wine
  4. Teachers of good things (hmmm, interesting – she can be a teacher)
Her teaching however is limited; she is to teach younger women to:
  1. Love their husbands
  2. Love their children
  3. Be discreet
  4. Be chaste
  5. Be homemakers
  6. Be obedient to their own husbands
Why? ‘So that the word of God may not be blasphemed’ (v. 5) Failing to follow the instruction given in the Bible is blasphemy!
Finally, there is a passage about women in one of Peter’s letters, which confirms what Paul has been saying. Peter says (1 Peter 3v1-6) women are to be submissive to their own husbands, their conduct is to be chaste, and they are to be adorned not with outward show, but the ‘hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God’ (1 Peter 3v4). Even if the husband is not a believer, the wife is to submit, for when the husband observes her behaviour, the husband may be won to obey the Word of God himself. Peter’s reasoning? He appeals to the women of the Old Testament, in particular, Sarah, who obeyed her husband in all things, and he calls Christian women to be like her in doing good.
Why did Paul write these things? Well he leaves us in no doubt: ‘These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how to conduct yourself in the hose of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth’ (1 Timothy 3v14-15). Did he intend them to be simply for that day? Again, he leaves us in no doubt: ‘I urge you in the sight of God...that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time’ (1 Timothy 6v13-15). We are to obey the Scriptures until the coming of the Lord Jesus in all His glory. Unfortunately for those who wish to have women in positions of leadership in the church, this applies also to them.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Women as God Intended, part 1

Having said recently that it is not God’s plan for women to be in positions of leadership and authority in the church, it seems a good idea to see what God has planned for women. At the outset, let me say that God has never denigrated women, or made out that they are second class, or inferior to men. Neither did Jesus and neither did the New Testament writers. I am aware that some will disagree with that statement, but I hope to show during this article that it is not in fact the case. In fact, Christianity did much to raise the status of women throughout history.

Nowhere in God's word is a woman degraded, seen as a second class citizen or a lesser person than a man. She has a specific and vital role in God structure for the family. That role is that she is to be the man's helper and supporter stand alongside him in helping them both in their union to accomplish God's will for their lives.” [The Biblical Order of Men and Women in theFamily and the Church, Cooper B Abrams III]

From the time of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, women have wanted more. Eve desired the forbidden fruit. Today, women want to exercise ministry in areas that God in His wisdom has determined they should not have. There are many areas of service in the church, family and society at large that are open to women, so why do they continue to fight for those things that are beyond their grasp? Is it because some have interpreted the Bible to imply that women are somehow inferior? Or is it because women think they know better than God? Just why are women dissatisfied and unfulfilled in their God-given roles? Is the role meant to be drudgery? Can there be something positive and meaningful in a woman’s role?

When God created Adam, he gave him the task of tending the garden He had planted: ‘Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it,’ (Genesis 2v15). The word ‘tend’ means ‘cultivate’; in other words, Adam was the gardener. But then God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him,’ (Genesis 1v18). The KJV says ‘an help meet for him’, i.e. a suitable helper and from where we derive the word ‘helpmeet’. Woman was created as complementary to man, neither inferior nor superior, but compatible with him. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), the Bible commentator, said, “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved by him.” Woman was created with dignity and honour; she was never intended as a second class citizen. However, even in these brief verses from Genesis, we see that the roles of the man and the woman were different. The man was given the task of tending the garden; the woman was given as a suitable helper.
Before too long, however, the world was spoilt by sin. Falling for the serpent’s lies, Adam and Eve lost their state of sinless perfection and with it, they lost the harmony they had hitherto enjoyed. God was likely aware that women would try to dominate men and so, in meting out the punishment to Eve for her part in the original sin, He said, ‘Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you,’ (Genesis 3v16). In short, God said that rather than the way things had been up to this point, He was placing man in authority over women. And women have been rebelling ever since. Not only that, men have been treating women as lesser beings ever since, too. Instead of following man’s lead, today’s woman tries to be in competition with him. Germaine Greer has said that ‘women are the new men’ and we can manage perfectly well without them. Women have striven for equality, but they have gone beyond equality; they want it all and they want it now! And in doing so, they are resisting God and His order for society. Refusal to accept man’s authority is refusal to accept God’s right to make the ‘rules’. Being submissive is not a popular concept in our culture today, yet there is peace to be had in submitting to God’s order.
The Ideal Wife

One of the main Biblical passages that people turn to for a positive view of women is in Proverbs 31v10-31:
10 Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
And willingly works with her hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
She brings her food from afar.
15 She also rises while it is yet night,
And provides food for her household,
And a portion for her maidservants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
From her profits she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength,
And strengthens her arms.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is good,
And her lamp does not go out by night.
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hand holds the spindle.
20 She extends her hand to the poor,
Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
For all her household is clothed with scarlet.
22 She makes tapestry for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies sashes for the merchants.
25 Strength and honour are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates.
While this passage addresses wives primarily, much of what it says can also be directed towards any woman; being married is not a prerequisite for being an ‘ideal woman’.
When we examine this ancient biblical ideal of womanhood, we do not find the stereotyped housewife occupied with dirty dishes and laundry, her daily life dictated by the demands of her husband and her children. Nor do we find a hardened, overly ambitious career woman who leaves her family to fend for itself.
What we find is a strong, dignified, multi-talented, caring woman who is an individual in her own right. This woman has money to invest, servants to look after and real estate to manage. She is her husband’s partner, and she is completely trusted with the responsibility for their lands, property and goods.
She has the business skills to buy and sell in the market, along with the heartfelt sensitivity and compassion to care for and fulfill the needs of people who are less fortunate. Cheerfully and energetically she tackles the challenges each day brings. Her husband and children love and respect her for her kind, generous and caring nature.
But with all her responsibilities, first and foremost, she looks to God. Her primary concern is God’s will in her life. She is a woman after God’s own heart. Let’s examine the characteristics of this remarkable woman — a role model for Christian women today...” [From Portrait of a Godly Woman]

For a further discussion on the woman of Proverbs 31, please see:
As you will see from these references (I do hope you will read the links), a Godly woman is someone to be sought after and valued (her price is far above rubies); she has a position of responsibility and is well respected. She is no second class citizen and has a wide sphere of influence, including influencing her husband’s position in society. Her home is harmonious, her children are well looked after, her husband holds a good position in the town council (he sits ‘in the gate’), she has money of her own, runs her own business, works hard – and it is thanks to her diligence that all these things are so. How can anyone say that women are not as good as men after reading that?

To be continued...

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Sunday Focus

Serenity Prayer


God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.


Saturday, 24 November 2012

Guest post: Why Women Should Not Be Pastors

By Brian Allison
Pastor of Unionville Baptist, Unionville, Ontario.
We are witnessing in the church today an unprecedented phenomenon and trend. More women are training for, and entering into, the pastoral ministry than in any other time in the history of the church. The reaction to this relatively new phenomenon ranges from bitter outrage to hearty endorsement. Quite often, the discussions and debates over the propriety of a woman pastor are contentious and divisive ones. Such consequences, of course, are inevitable when the issues reduce to one of commitment to the Scriptures themselves as constituting the very truth of God. High regard for the integrity, sufficiency, authority, relevancy, and inerrancy of the Scriptures naturally results in a sense of obligation and necessity to acquire the accurate interpretation of those Scriptures, as well as to promote the faithful practice of the same.

Compelling sociological factors, which have been engendered by the feminist movement, have pressed the church to address and rethink the general issue of the role of women in the church, as well as the specific issue of the propriety of women becoming pastors. My aim in this paper is simply to present a Biblical view on the pastoral ministry, with the specific question of concern being: Should women be elders or pastors in the church? In discussing such a controversial and potentially explosive issue, the watchword surely must be: "Speaking the truth in love."

The predominant term used for the spiritual leaders in the church is elder (presbuteros). It occurs 14 times in this capacity, as opposed to the more frequently used term today 'pastor' (poimne) which occurs only once in this same capacity. The other term which is used for the spiritual leader is 'overseer' (episkopos) which occurs 4 times in this capacity. These three designations are used interchangeably in the New Testament for the same ecclesiastical office (cf. Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1, 2). Elders (bishops, pastors) are representatives and ambassadors of Jesus Christ for the church (cf. 2 Cor. 5:18-21). In addition, they are stewards, for they have been entrusted with the welfare of the church (Tit. 1:7). Their primary responsibility is to care for (epimeleomai) the members of the spiritual body of Christ (1 Tim. 3:5), for which they will have to render an account (Jas. 3:1; Heb. 13:17).
Elders have two main duties or functions in the exercise of their care for the church. First, they are to oversee the membership. The apostle Peter exhorts the elders to "exercise oversight" (episkopeo) over the flock of God (1 Pet. 5:2). That is, elders are to superintend the affairs and activities of the church. They are the guardians of Christ for His heritage. They are to protect the whole membership from false doctrine and heresy (Acts 20:28). Elders are to exercise this management in an attitude of readiness, eagerness, and humility, without "lording it over those allotted to [their] charge, but proving to be examples to the flock" (1 Pet. 5:3).

The second duty or function of elders is to shepherd the membership. The apostle Paul exhorts the Ephesian elders "to shepherd [poimaino] the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). That is, elders are to attend or minister to the (spiritual) needs of the body of Christ. This duty can be compared to that of a sheepherder who tends a flock of sheep. The sheepherder guides the sheep to water and pasture; he shelters and guards them; grooms and shears them. Jesus Christ likens His people to a flock of sheep (John 10:7-16). As sheep, believers require guidance and nourishment. Christ Himself is the chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 2:25) Who "shall guide [His own] to springs of the water of life" (Rev. 7:17). Elders, who are the undershepherds of the chief Shepherd, have a similar responsibility.

This figurative tending or shepherding of the sheep is literally and primarily seen in the teaching and instruction of spiritual truth. Elders tend to the spiritual needs of the flock of Christ by preaching and ministering the Word of God Mark records, "And when He [Jesus] went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things" (Mk. 6:34). Accordingly, Christ has provided "pastors [poimne] and teachers [didaskalos]" for His spiritual sheep (Eph. 4:11). Christ has not provided pastors in addition to teachers, but pastors who are teachers. In Ephesians 4:11, Paul is speaking of only one office. Thus Paul instructs Timothy that elders must be "able to teach" (1 Tim. 2:2). All elders must have the ability or gift to teach.


The role of an elder in the church, which is patterned on the role of the Lord Jesus (see 1 Pet. 2:25 - poimne, episkopos), is basically that of an overseer and shepherd (or teacher). He has an administrative function to perform, as well as a didactic one. The Scriptural witness to this fact is conclusive. For instance, Paul addresses the Ephesian elders and reminds them that "the Holy Spirit [had] made [them] overseers, to shepherd the church of God" (Acts 20:28). Further, he requests of the Thessalonian believers to "appreciate those who diligently labor among [them], and have charge over [them] in the Lord and give [them] instruction" (1 Th. 5:12). Peter exhorts elders to "shepherd the flock of God . . .exercising oversight" (1 Pet. 5:2). Even the writer to the Jewish Christians exhorts, "Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith" (Heb. 13:7).


With this background exegetical teaching on the pastorate, I now address more particularly the issue of the propriety of woman pastors or elders. The Scriptures unquestionably teach that women are not to be elders. I will present three reasons to support this contention.

1. Eldership Qualifications

First, the specific qualifications outlined for those aspiring to the pastorate or eldership strongly imply that such candidates are to be men (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9). The overseer or elder is required to be the "husband of one wife" (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6). Furthermore, he must be a person who "manages (proistemi) his own household well (kalos)," which is prerequisite for taking care of the church (1 Tim. 3:4,5). The management of the household, according to the Scriptures, is primarily the man's, rather than the woman's, responsibility. The man is considered the 'head' in the home under Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 11:3). Management of the household by men is further substantiated when the similar qualification for deacons is examined. It reads, "Let husbands of only one wife, and good managers [lit, managing well - kalos proistemi] of their children and their own households" (1 Tim. 3:12). This statement leaves no doubt as to who is to manage the household. Consistency, therefore, demands that the similar qualification for those aspiring to be pastors must also refer to men and not women.

2. Women Prohibited

The second reason why women are not to be pastors or elders is because the Scriptures specifically prohibit such action. The apostle Paul, in communicating to Timothy the policies, practices, and principles which are to govern "how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God" (1 Tim. 3:15) states:

But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression (1 Tim. 2:12-14).
This prohibition is not directed against teaching or exercising authority (i.e., having rule) in the abstract or universal sense, but rather teaching and exercising authority within the specific context of the church. Paul furnishes the rationale or ground for such a prohibition. The first reason for such a prohibition is a cosmological one; the second reason is a juridical one.

A) The Cosmological reason for Prohibition

First, women are not to be pastors or elders because "Adam was first created, and then Eve." God created the world with a particular design and structure. He imposed a certain order and form on His creation. He created the cosmos with particular operative principles and laws; and in His wisdom and plan, the man was created first. This peculiarity of God's cosmos had significant and determinative consequences. Man, being first in the creation order of rational, earthly existence, stood as the natural head. The woman was created after the man to fulfill the role of a "helper suitable for him" (Gen. 2:18, 20). The woman was created under (not unequal nor inferior to) the man. Priority in creation, according to the divine design, naturally entails leadership (cf. 1 Cor. 11:3, 7ff.). The man's creation involved the endowment of leadership; the woman's creation involved the endowment of cooperation to that leadership. Even the source of the woman's creation symbolizes this leadership-follower creational principle. Woman was created from a rib taken from man's side, which suggests a dependent relationship.

Accordingly, the nature of the creation order (i.e., the inherent structures and principles of this particular cosmos) presumably remain universal and unalterable. Indeed, this very fact provides the basis for Paul's argument for the propriety of head coverings in his address to the Corinthian church. He states:
For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels (1 Cor.11:8-10). It is interesting that when Paul teaches on topics that pertain to man-woman relationships, his basis is usually the creation order, the original design and structure of the cosmos, and not cultural peculiarities or trends. Paul advances his various arguments in reference to the universal or absolute foundations.

So when Paul instructs Timothy concerning proper administration in the church, acknowledging the preeminence and the necessity of conformity to God's original design (which still bears a universal character), he reasons, "For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve." In the church, the echoes of the original (sinless) creation must resound as the recreation is in progress, though in the consummation of all things, the original creation will be supremely surpassed.

B) The Juridical Reason for Prohibition

The second reason for Paul's prohibition which excludes women from the pastoral ministry or eldership, as stated in 1 Timothy 2:14, concerns the divine pronouncement of judgement. The rule of the man and the submission of the woman has a juridical basis. "It was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression." The woman listened to the serpent (i.e., the devil) and disobeyed the commandment of God to refrain from eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16, 17; 3:2, 3). The whole creation, through Eve's lead, became corrupt though the structures and inherent principles of the creation remained intact. Yet the man, as the natural head, was held ultimately responsible. It was when he ate of the forbidden fruit that "the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked" (Gen. 3:7).

Part of the divine pronouncement of judgement for Eve (and thus for all women) was: "Yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Gen. 3:16). As long as the curse of sin is upon the creation, the judgement remains in force. The judgement applies to this earthly existence until the establishment of the new creation order. Even those who comprise the church of Jesus Christ remain subject to this judgement because they continue to live and function in this fallen and accursed world, and thus remain subject to its laws and conditions. The Spirit's regenerative and renewing work in the believer is not perfected while the believer remains part of this fallen creation. The physical body is yet to undergo a spiritual transformation. Thus, while the body remains identified with this corrupt creation, it remains subject to the divine judgement on creation. The work of the Spirit has begun to reverse the effects of sin in the believer, but complete eradication will not be "until the period of restoration of all things" (Acts 3:21). If the curse remains upon the earth, then the divine judgements remain in force. The curse and the judgements are inseparable. Though the believer has been ultimately delivered from the curse (of decay and death), he nevertheless remains affected by it while he remains in this world. The woman, therefore, through divine juridical pronouncement, must submit to the rule of the man and not usurp authority, particularly in the Christian home and church, where God's Word, whether pronounced at creation or on the isle of Patmos, should be willingly obeyed.

Paul understood and appreciated the universal and inflexible applicability of this juridical pronouncement or edict as evidenced in his reference to it as the ground for the justification of the exclusion of women from the pastorate. In addition to this particular injunction given to Timothy, he similarly enjoins this church practice on the Corinthian congregation. He commands:
Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves just as the Law [i.e., the five books of Moses] also says. And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church (1 Cor. 14:34, 35).Paul's basis of argument is the juridical pronouncement or edict of God, which is still in force during this present age. The woman is not to be an elder or pastor in the church because Adam was not deceived, "but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression." Hence this apostolic prohibition or regulation concerning women and the pastoral ministry constitutes normative church practice.

3. Pastoral Ordination

The third, and final, reason why women are not to be elders or pastors in the church concerns the matter of ordination to the pastoral office. The New Testament Greek verb which means 'to ordain' in reference to an official post or formal office is cathistemi. It can also be translated 'to appoint' or 'to put in charge'. The ideas of managerial responsibility and oversight seem to be implied in its usage. The verb occurs 21 times in the New Testament, with 5 of its occurrences referring to a specifically religious/ecclesiastical role or function. Three occurrences refer to the formal office of the high priest under the rubric of the Levitical administration (Heb. 5:1; 7:28; 8:3). The other two occurrences refer to the particular offices within New Testament ecclesiology (Acts 6:3; Tit. 1:5).

With respect to the Levitical administration, the high priest of Israel was always a man. Old Testament Scriptures, tradition, and history indisputably establish this factordained the office which pertains to religious ministry (see Ex. 28, 29; Lev. 8, 9, 21f; Num. 8, 18). Accordingly, though diversity does exist between the Old and New dispensations, organic unity is clearly evident. The first occurrence of cathistemi in reference to New Testament ecclesiology pertains to the diaconate. In Acts 6, the formal office of the diaconate is created under apostolic authority and oversight. The apostles themselves give instruction on the procedure for securing personnel to serve as deacons. The instruction is "But select from among you, brethren, seven men [aner - - male] of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom who we may put in charge [cathistemi] of this task [i.e., the daily serving of food]."

The second, and final, occurrence of cathistemi in reference to New Testament ecclesiology concerns the pastor-ate or eldership. In Titus 1:5, this particular office is in view. The apostle Paul had commissioned Titus, an apostolic representative, to "appoint [cathistemi] elders in every city". Paul proceeds to give the necessary, and normative, qualifications of those who are to be ordained to this office. It becomes quite apparent that the apostolic teaching pertaining to ordination is that a candidate must be a man. The apostle states: "If any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife (mias gunaicos aner, lit, a male of one woman)" (Tit. 1:6; cf. 1 Tim. 3:2). Nowhere in the New Testament is there a set of alternative qualifications, which strongly suggests that the ordination of women is certainly not founded on clear Biblical grounds.

It is interesting that the New Testament teaches that there are only two formal ecclesiastical offices, the diaconate and the pastorate (cf. Phil. 1:1), and the only two textual occurrences to ecclesiastical ordination in the New Testament Scriptures refer to these two offices respectively: The Scriptures provide sufficient information in order to draw some sound conclusions about the nature of ecclesiastical ordination. The only two witnesses to this religious, official act virtually agree in substance. Accordingly, the plain conclusion of the Scriptures is that only men are to be ordained to an ecclesiastical office. This teaching appears to be the Biblical pattern, and is thus currently relevant.

We have a responsibility to stem the tide of ecclesiastical compromise and Scriptural prostitution, and to summon the church of Christ back to Biblical truth and faithfulness.


The above article is from the September/October 1999 issue of The FCM Informer. The editor writes about the "Purpose of this 'Informer' Issue":

Because of the aggressive offense being waged by the radical feminists across the Mennonite Church today, we have devoted most of this issue to the question of women in the ministry. Much of our church publishing energy is being used to "push" the feminist agenda including attempts to feminize God. It is past time that true Biblicists respond to this blasphemy. Historian William Manchester has said, "the erasure of distinctions between the sexes is not only the most striking issue of our time, it may be the most profound the race has ever confronted."

Those who are not familiar with the work of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood would be well served in contacting the Council at P. O. Box 317, Wheaton, IL 60189 and asking for a copy of "The Danvers Statement". The ten "Affirmations" of CBMW are a major contribution to promoting the true Biblical position.

The author is the Pastor of Unionville Baptist at Unionville, Ontario.

You are welcome to make copies of the above article provided you show the copyright information and source.

Guest post - "Women pastors / preachers? What does the Bible say about women in ministry?"

This post is taken from, with permission

Question: "Women pastors / preachers? What does the Bible say about women in ministry?"

There is perhaps no more hotly debated issue in the church today than the issue of women serving as pastors/preachers. As a result, it is very important to not see this issue as men versus women. There are women who believe women should not serve as pastors and that the Bible places restrictions on the ministry of women, and there are men who believe women can serve as preachers and that there are no restrictions on women in ministry. This is not an issue of chauvinism or discrimination. It is an issue of biblical interpretation.

The Word of God proclaims, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (1 Timothy 2:11-12). In the church, God assigns different roles to men and women. This is a result of the way mankind was created and the way in which sin entered the world (1 Timothy 2:13-14). God, through the apostle Paul, restricts women from serving in roles of teaching and/or having spiritual authority over men. This precludes women from serving as pastors over men, which definitely includes preaching to, teaching, and having spiritual authority.

There are many “objections” to this view of women in ministry. A common one is that Paul restricts women from teaching because in the first century, women were typically uneducated. However, 1 Timothy 2:11-14 nowhere mentions educational status. If education were a qualification for ministry, the majority of Jesus' disciples would not have been qualified. A second common objection is that Paul only restricted the women of Ephesus from teaching (1 Timothy was written to Timothy, who was the pastor of the church in Ephesus). The city of Ephesus was known for its temple to Artemis, a false Greek/Roman goddess. Women were the authority in the worship of Artemis. However, the book of 1 Timothy nowhere mentions Artemis, nor does Paul mention Artemis worship as a reason for the restrictions in 1 Timothy 2:11-12.

A third common objection is that Paul is only referring to husbands and wives, not men and women in general. The Greek words in the passage could refer to husbands and wives; however, the basic meaning of the words refers to men and women. Further, the same Greek words are used in verses 8-10. Are only husbands to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger and disputing (verse 8)? Are only wives to dress modestly, have good deeds, and worship God (verses 9-10)? Of course not. Verses 8-10 clearly refer to all men and women, not only husbands and wives. There is nothing in the context that would indicate a switch to husbands and wives in verses 11-14.

Yet another frequent objection to this interpretation of women in ministry is in relation to women who held positions of leadership in the Bible, specifically Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah in the Old Testament. This objection fails to note some significant factors. First, Deborah was the only female judge among 13 male judges. Huldah was the only female prophet among dozens of male prophets mentioned in the Bible. Miriam's only connection to leadership was being the sister of Moses and Aaron. The two most prominent women in the times of the Kings were Athaliah and Jezebel—hardly examples of godly female leadership. Most significantly, though, the authority of women in the Old Testament is not relevant to the issue. The book of 1 Timothy and the other Pastoral Epistles present a new paradigm for the church—the body of Christ—and that paradigm involves the authority structure for the church, not for the nation of Israel or any other Old Testament entity.

Similar arguments are made using Priscilla and Phoebe in the New Testament. In Acts 18, Priscilla and Aquila are presented as faithful ministers for Christ. Priscilla's name is mentioned first, perhaps indicating that she was more “prominent” in ministry than her husband. However, Priscilla is nowhere described as participating in a ministry activity that is in contradiction to 1 Timothy 2:11-14. Priscilla and Aquila brought Apollos into their home and they both discipled him, explaining the Word of God to him more accurately (Acts 18:26).

In Romans 16:1, even if Phoebe is considered a “deaconess” instead of a “servant,” that does not indicate that Phoebe was a teacher in the church. “Able to teach” is given as a qualification for elders, but not deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9). Elders/bishops/deacons are described as the “husband of one wife,” “a man whose children believe,” and “men worthy of respect.” Clearly the indication is that these qualifications refer to men. In addition, in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9, masculine pronouns are used exclusively to refer to elders/bishops/deacons.

The structure of 1 Timothy 2:11-14 makes the “reason” perfectly clear. Verse 13 begins with “for” and gives the “cause” of Paul’s statement in verses 11-12. Why should women not teach or have authority over men? Because “Adam was created first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived.” God created Adam first and then created Eve to be a “helper” for Adam. This order of creation has universal application in the family (Ephesians 5:22-33) and the church. The fact that Eve was deceived is also given as a reason for women not serving as pastors or having spiritual authority over men. This leads some to believe that women should not teach because they are more easily deceived. That concept is debatable, but if women are more easily deceived, why should they be allowed to teach children (who are easily deceived) and other women (who are supposedly more easily deceived)? That is not what the text says. Women are not to teach men or have spiritual authority over men because Eve was deceived. As a result, God has given men the primary teaching authority in the church.

Many women excel in gifts of hospitality, mercy, teaching, evangelism, and helps. Much of the ministry of the local church depends on women. Women in the church are not restricted from public praying or prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:5), only from having spiritual teaching authority over men. The Bible nowhere restricts women from exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12). Women, just as much as men, are called to minister to others, to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and to proclaim the gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15).

God has ordained that only men are to serve in positions of spiritual teaching authority in the church. This is not because men are necessarily better teachers, or because women are inferior or less intelligent (which is not the case). It is simply the way God designed the church to function. Men are to set the example in spiritual leadership—in their lives and through their words. Women are to take a less authoritative role. Women are encouraged to teach other women (Titus 2:3-5). The Bible also does not restrict women from teaching children. The only activity women are restricted from is teaching or having spiritual authority over men. This logically would preclude women from serving as pastors to men. This does not make women less important, by any means, but rather gives them a ministry focus more in agreement with God’s plan and His gifting of them.